April 6, 2015
Jaywalking In Tampa
Walking is a great way to get exercise. Not only is it cost-effective, it’s also great for the environment. With all the pedestrian traffic, the local roads have become unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians. Tampa needs to enforce stronger jaywalking laws to prevent more injuries and deaths.
Background of Problem
Jaywalking is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “a pedestrian who crosses a street without regard to traffic regulations” ("Jaywalker," 2015). For these pedestrians who choose to disregard traffic laws, they put themselves, those crossing with them, including children, and drivers at risk. And what prompts them to take this risk? Tampa officials said, “The problem has occurred for so long with such frequency that it has become accepted practice,” (Shopes, 2011, para. 20). So while it may be a common practice, it is one that needs to be stopped and brought under control.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2013 the Tampa Bay area saw 32 pedestrian fatalities (“2013 Pedestrian Traffic Safety Fact Sheet,” 2015). Florida’s pedestrian fatality average was 7 in 2013 (“2013 Pedestrian Traffic Safety Fact Sheet,” 2015), the Tampa Bay area had four times as many deaths. These statistics alone show how dangerous jaywalking is in Tampa.
Children learn in many ways, but one of the most influential ways is by watching adults and copying them. When it comes to jaywalking, because so many children see adults darting into traffic, they have learned that it is okay for them to do so also. While adults may possess better judgment of traffic and vehicle acceleration and may be able to judge when to run across the street, children do not have this ability. As cited by Safe Kids World, “The maturity level of children under 10 years of age makes them less able to correctly gauge road dangers and puts them at greater risk for injury and death.” (“Pedestrian Safety Fact Sheet (2013),” 2013, p. 1). The only thing children see are adults running across the street and not using crosswalks. They do not understand that drivers of many vehicles are stepping on their brakes and even switching lanes in order to avoid hitting the pedestrians.
Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, 15, and her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, decided to jaywalk to get to school one morning and were hit by a 17-year-old driver ("Bay News 9", 2015). Norma died from her injuries and Victoria sustained a broken arm ("Bay News 9", 2015). Unfortunately, these two girls demonstrate the tragic and painful fact of jaywalking. One sister lost her life, and the other has to recover from a painful injury, as well as cope with the loss of her sister. And do not forget about the 17-year-old driver, who undoubtedly suffers from the accident as well. It’s this tragic example that shows how a risky decision can have life long effects.
Pedestrians may suffer from painful injuries, and families may have to cope with the grief in the event of a fatal accident, but drivers of pedestrian accidents are also victims. Drivers can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a traffic accident ("Family Doctor", 2014). Symptoms of PTSD include shock, trouble believing it happened, anger, worry, and guilt (“Family Doctor”, 2014). In many cases, drivers are not charged with hitting jaywalkers but that does not alleviate the emotional trauma they have to work through.
If Tampa wants to change the future of jaywalking and the consequences, they need to reach out and better educate children that live in high jaywalking areas. It’s not enough to send a safety educator into a school once or twice a year; these minors need to be exposed to the dangers of jaywalking often. Educators can reach students with age appropriate games, information sheets, and interactive activities to reinforce street safety.
A partnership between parents and safety